Pit Bull Belongs to HSUS Senior State Director Annie Hornish
Janet D'Aleo, 95-years old, died November 6 after a severe dog attack in Suffield.
$2 Million Settlement
UPDATE 01/13/21: The family of Janet D'Aleo has reached a settlement for $2 million dollars in their lawsuit against the owners of the dog. In November 2019, a rescued pit bull belonging to former state representative Annie Hornish, who continues to be the Connecticut senior state director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), attacked and killed D'Aleo by inflicting a Level 6 bite. Hornish then denied this and falsely claimed D'Aleo died due to "falling."
The civil lawsuit argued that D'Aleo's death at the home of Neil and Annie Hornish was caused by the couple's "negligence and carelessness." The D'Aleo family's attorney, John Houlihan, said the settlement was finalized this month after approval from the Enfield Probate Court. The legal community responded to the award by stating: "A 25-minute video showing the active lifestyle of a 95-year-old Enfield woman" helped secure the $2 million settlement over a vicious dog attack.
The D'Aleo estate is expected to be paid in a lump sum within 30 days and will be paid by the Hornish's homeowners insurance company, even as that company is suing them. The company is accusing the couple of lying on their insurance application about owning two pit bulls. The company argues it would not have issued a policy to the Hornishes had the couple informed them that they owned two pit bulls. The Hornishes now claim that neither of their dogs are pit bulls.
The pit bull that killed D'Aleo, "Dexter," continues to be on death row in Suffield. The couple has been fighting the destruction order of the dog for over a year now. In October 2020, after a protracted dangerous dog hearing was held over the summer, the state upheld the original decision of the Suffield Animal Control officer to euthanize the dog. "The hearing officer dismissed the completely unfounded version of events that the Hornishes contrived," Houlihan said.
The Hornishes intend to appeal the decision by the state department, claiming their dog was "provoked" by D'Aleo's home health aid.
Starting from the day of the attack on November 6, 2019 to present day, the Humane Society of the United States has remained silent about Hornish's dog fatally attacking an elderly woman and about Hornish's "alternative facts" to police, animal control and state court officials after D'Aleo's mauling death. Hornish has also maintained her role as the Connecticut senior state director of the HSUS, which involves heavily lobbying Connecticut state legislators about state animal issues.
Appeal of Disposal Order Outcome
On December 21, 2020, Bruce Sherman, the Director of Bureau of Regulatory services, adopted the Proposed Final Decision in the matter of "Dexter" in full. Read the Final Decision and the Proposed Final Decision, which is attached to it, in its entirety at the below link.
12/12/19: Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed
On Thursday, the family of a 95-year old woman who died after suffering "massive injuries including flesh, muscle and tendon loss to the lower extremities" after being mauled by a dog, filed a civil lawsuit against the owners of the dog, which includes former state representative Annie Hornish, who is currently the Connecticut senior state director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Hornish's husband Neil is also named in the wrongful death lawsuit.
John D'Aleo, the executor of Janet D'Aleo’s estate and her son, asks for damages in excess of $15,000. The civil lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in Hartford, reports the Hartford Courant. The lawsuit alleges three counts against each defendant, for a total of six counts. Two counts under Section 22-357, the state's strict liability statute (Damage to a person or property); two counts under negligence and carelessness; and two counts under "willful, wanton and reckless" conduct.
Under the strict liability statute, "If the victim was not a trespasser, not committing a tort, and not provoking the dog, there is no defense," states attorney Kenneth Phillips on DogBiteLaw.com. The other two counts require the victim to prove the defendant(s) had knowledge of the dog's vicious propensities, or had "the means of knowledge, of them." Those counts are spelled out on pages 3-8. Our favorite is part f. (pages 7 and 14), which alleges defendants ignored behavioral indicators.
The incident and the injuries and losses sustained and suffered by D'Aleo and/or her estate were caused by the willful, wanton, and reckless conduct of the [defendants] in one or more of the following ways:
f.) in that [defendants] consciously ignored behavioral indicators that the dog presented an unreasonable danger to the persons in proximity to the dog, including the plaintiff's decedent.
The estate's attorney, John Houlihan from RisCassi & Davis law firm, provided a statement to Fox 61 Thursday. "This terrible loss is compounded by the fact that it was entirely preventable. And the family's pain is made even worse by the extreme efforts being employed to fight the animal control officer's decision to euthanize this obviously dangerous dog. Had that much energy been used to control the dog in the first place, this tragedy would not have happened," said Houlihan.
The Role of the HSUS
On June 20, the day that Hornish first became aware of "Dexter," Hornish was responding to a Facebook post by Jessica Kaczynski, who stated in part, "Sadly, we are looking for an immediate home/foster for my parent's dog Dexter. He is sweet, loyal, house-trained -- with the exception that he jumps through windows that have screens and today he broke the glass window to get outside -- that was the last straw for my parents. Anxiety medicine has helped him in the past with this."
Acting in the capacity as a senior state director of the HSUS, Hornish responds in comments by trash-talking the Connecticut Humane Society (CHS), which has no association to the HSUS, then provides Kaczynski with her HSUS office phone number. Hornish pleads with her not to bring Dexter to CHS under the guise the group will kill Dexter "just because of its breed." That very day, or by July 9, Hornish became the owner of Dexter. Four months later, the dog kills D'Aleo.
We reached out to dog bite attorney Kenneth Phillips for a response. His response hits hard about an organization that for decades had been known for promoting a healthy relationship between people and dogs and for supporting the best interests of animal shelters. Those decades have since passed. Now, of the only 30 or 40 fatal dog maulings annually, a senior state director of the HSUS is the owner of one of these dogs. This is not a fall from grace; it is a fall into a black abyss.
"One of the top officials of the Humane Society of the United States owns a killer pit bull -- is this really a surprise? The modern HSUS can be counted on no longer to promote a healthy relationship between people and dogs, as evidenced by the fact that it has staunchly refused to take a stand against the breeding of pit bulls. It refuses to recognize that this is the most abused, unwanted and dangerous type of dog, known for its savage, fatal attacks on its owners and its owners' children. This type of dog also commits 90% of the fatal attacks on other people's dogs, cats and horses. The HSUS, which normally would be expected to support the best interests of animal shelters, knows that pit bulls make up more than half the dogs in shelters, putting a huge financial strain on shelters and forcing them to push pit bulls on unsuspecting, good people who often are tricked into accepting this unsuitable, risky animal into their homes. If the HSUS cared about pets and people, it would speak out against the breeding of pit bulls. But instead, a high-level official of that organization turns out to be the owner of one of the 30 or 40 pit bulls which have killed an American this year. What a terrible reflection on a once noble organization." - Attorney Kenneth Phillips, DogBiteLaw.com
Attempt to Supersede Order
In our November 26 update, we reported that Hornish appealed the animal control officer's destruction order to the state Department of Agriculture. Just before Thanksgiving, however, more disturbing news was reported. Not only did Hornish appeal the destruction order, she and her husband sent "intervention" letters to Suffield First Selectwoman Melissa Mack in an attempt to override the animal control officer's decision to euthanize the dog. Mack declined to intervene.
No Licensing or Vaccination
We have known for weeks that Hornish failed to license "Dexter" after owning the pit bull for just over four months. The lawsuit states that Hornish also failed to provide a valid rabies vaccination certificate for her dog, another violation of state law. Both add weight to Hornish's negligent dog ownership. One can only speculate about her failure to license. Dexter had two previous bites in Norwich prior to being rehomed to Annie. The dog was already in the legal system in her state.
Also, recall that Suffield police chose to not bring criminal charges against Hornish "after careful consideration and consultation with the Enfield Superior Court State’s Attorney’s Office." Could they prove Hornish had knowledge of the dog's vicious propensities "beyond a reasonable doubt" in a criminal prosecution? They opted not to try. But the burden of proof is much lower in a civil lawsuit. One only has to show a "preponderance of the evidence," the lowest standard of proof.
11/26/19: Appeals Destruction Order
Suffield Police have completed their investigation after a rehomed pit bull belonging to Annie Hornish, the Connecticut senior state director of the Humane Society of the United States, mauled and killed an elderly woman while she visited Hornish's residence on November 6. Hornish told media outlets after the vicious attack that 95-year old Janet D'Aleo died due to "falling." Police, however, categorized the bite as a Level 6, a dog bite that results in human death.
The police investigation revealed that "Dexter," which Hornish had adopted about four months earlier, had previously bitten at least two times. The dog bit a person in 2016 and bit another dog in 2018, both bites occurred in the town of Norwich, police said. After the dog killed D'Aleo, the town's animal control officer declared Dexter "vicious" and ordered the dog euthanized. Hornish is now fighting this destruction order by appealing the order to the state Department of Agriculture.
It is unknown if Hornish knew about the previous bites, but she knew when she acquired Dexter the dog had jumped through a glass window to get outside and required anti-anxiety medication. After the fatal attack, Hornish claimed that Dexter had "never shown aggression" before. Hornish continuously claims she had owned Dexter for six to eight months, but July 9 to November 6 is only four months. Hornish also claims that Dexter had been around D'Aleo "multiple times."
"The dog has no history, whatsoever, of aggression," Hornish said. "The dog has been around children and has been around Janet D'Aleo multiple times. - Hartford Courant, November 9, 2019
"It all happened fast," Hornish said. "Dexter ran into Janet -- he knew Janet; she's been here multiple times -- and she was walking, but she was very fragile. She fell over, and we feel it was the fall that killed her." - Journal Inquirer, November 6, 2019
Why would Hornish fabricate her ownership date of this dog, which at the very earliest was June 20? Perhaps because she wants to place Dexter at "multiple" home events with D'Aleo? The infamous "Birthday Party" video, when Hornish claimed Dexter was "singing" was posted to her Facebook page on July 20. D'Aleo appears to be present, standing behind the woman in the pink floral shirt. D'Aleo is also one of the people in the room that is the furthest away from Dexter.
Finally, while this news was breaking today, Hornish "re-activated" her Facebook account and published a public post that can only be described as shameless, narcissistic and a psychological projection. We certainly hope D'Aleo's family, Suffield Police and the Commissioner of Agriculture, Bryan Hurlburt -- who Hornish served alongside as a state Rep. from 2009 to 2011 -- eventually sees it. Several hours after publishing this delusional, self-pitying post, Hornish deleted it.
11/15/19: Failed Police Commission Run
On November 5, Annie Hornish appeared on the town of Suffield ballot for police commission -- voters could vote for three candidates and five candidates were listed. The following day, on November 6, Hornish's pit bull "Dexter" attacked and killed 95-year old Janet D'Aleo, who was visiting Hornish's home. Hornish claimed multiple times on the record that D'Aleo died due to "falling," even after the Suffield Police Department designated the bite injuries as a Level 6.
The office of the Chief Medical Examiner said D’Aleo died as a direct result of coming in contact with the dog. D’Aleo sustained "massive injuries including flesh, muscle and tendon loss to the lower extremities," Suffield police said, the very department Hornish sought to oversee with a seat on the police commission. Hornish also continues her role as the Connecticut senior state director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) after her dog killed an elderly woman.
After the attack, Hornish publicly rejected the office of the Chief Medical Examiner's findings and the Suffield Police Department's findings. In a written statement Monday to the Hartford Courant, Hornish continued her denials and described the attack, which she did not witness in full, as: "Our dog Dexter was overly enthusiastic in greeting our good friend, and the ensuing chaos resulted in this terrible outcome," Hornish said. "Our grief for Janet is tantamount and heartfelt," she said.
The results of the November election are not listed on the city's website. We reached out to Kenneth Pascoe, the board contact for the Suffield Police Commission. He stated in an email reply, "There were 5 individuals running for 3 slots -- 2 Democrats and 3 Republicans." Both Democrats lost, he wrote, "Hornish and Stromoski." If she had been elected, Hornish would be overseeing a department she just marginalized through her repeated denials and dishonesty.
2013 State Preemption Law
In 2013, state legislators in Connecticut passed a state preemption law barring municipalities from enacting or enforcing breed-specific laws. In her role as the senior state director of the HSUS, Hornish successfully lobbied legislators to pass the legislation, House Bill 6311. In a February 20, 2013 letter to the Planning and Development Committee, Hornish laid out her anti-BSL talking points. We specifically call your attention to page 2, "Understanding the real risk factors."
Hornish did not understand the real risk factors in Dexter, a dog she knew to be "overexuberant" and in the past had broken through a window to get outside. Hornish failed to recognize any warning signs in Dexter (claiming instead he was "singing" in the "Birthday Party" video), failed to properly manage her dog's behaviors, by placing him into a situation with an elderly person using a walker, then denied all responsibility and denied that bite injuries from her dog killed a woman.
Annie Hornish states in the 2013 letter in part:
"The dog's upbringing. Dogs raised by owners who understand and manage their behaviors and provide veterinary care may avoid painful or uncomfortable conditions that can cause overreactions to being handled.
The dog's personality. Like people, some dogs are more easy-going than others, while others don't adjust well to new situations. No two dogs will ever react exactly the same way to a given circumstance.
The person's ability to recognize warning signs. Dogs who bite usually give some kind of warning, whether subtle or overt. If people ignore or misunderstand such warnings, dogs may feel the need or urge to bite."
11/11/19: Died Due to Level 6 Bite
New information has been released about an elderly woman who died after being attacked by a pit bull belonging to Annie Hornish, who is the Connecticut senior state director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Janet D’Aleo, of Enfield, died as a direct result of coming in contact with the dog. D’Aleo sustained "massive injuries including flesh, muscle and tendon loss to the lower extremities," according to police.
Police said under the "Ian Dunbar Bite Assessment Scale, the incident rated a level six of six." Level 6 of the scale is a dog bite inflicted fatality.
The Ian Dunbar Dog Bite Scale has long been in existence. Level 1 is aggression but no teeth contact. Level 5 is multiple damaging bites from a hard biting dog. Level 6 leaves a victim dead. Dunbar recommends the following for Level 5 and Level 6 biters: "The dog is extremely dangerous and mutilates. The dog is simply not safe around people. I recommend euthanasia because the quality of life is so poor for dogs that have to live out their lives in solitary confinement."
Hornish's Pathological Denials
Last week, Hornish made multiple false claims to media outlets -- she's on the record -- that D’Aleo died "due to falling." Hornish also falsely accused the victim's home health aide of causing the dog to attack D'Aleo when the aide attempted to save her client's life. With a Level 6 bite, it is clear the health aide was striking the dog with a metal chair to get the dog to release. The pit bull bore down and was shaking the victim in his jaws then re-gripped and repeated this type of bite.
Police stated "lower extremities" in the plural, indicating severe bites to both of her lower extremities and in multiple anatomical locations.
Hornish also called the fatal attack inflicted by her pit bull a "freak accident," a term used by pit bull owners since the 1980s to mitigate the deaths carried out by pit bulls every 16 days in the U.S. since 2005. Hornish was not present when the attack began, but claimed to know the sequence of the events. Hornish is also oblivious about her dog's behavior as seen in the "Birthday Party" video, as well as knowing her pit bull has broken through a window to get outside in the past.
Calling a Pit Bull a Pit Bull
Dexter is a pit bull; he is not a pit bull-pointer mix. Having the "coloring" of a pointer does not equate to being an actual dog breed. Hornish also claimed her dog has never bitten before. How would she know since "Dexter" had at least six different owners by the age of 4? Hornish is not a dog expert and is certainly not a pit bull expert. There are only a handful of pit bull experts in this country. Hornish's pit bull should never have been near a 95-year old woman using a walker.
Hornish should resign as the Connecticut senior state director of the HSUS. She lied multiple times on the record after her dangerous pit bull killed an elderly woman by inflicting "massive injuries including flesh, muscle and tendon loss to the lower extremities." Hornish has been dishonest, shameful and repugnant. Hornish is also an irresponsible pit bull owner who failed to recognize multiple behavioral red flags and subjected a highly vulnerable person to her dog.
11/08/19: HSUS Director Owns Dog
The home where a 95-year old woman was severely bitten by a pit bull belongs to former a state politician. Janet D'Aleo died Wednesday after being rushed to Baystate Medical Center. The dog lived at 584 Thrall Avenue, which is the residence of former state Rep. Annie Hornish, an animal rights activist. D'Aleo had been visiting Hornish's mother, Agnes Wosko, when Hornish's pit bull attacked the elderly woman, causing "substantial and severe injuries," Chief Richard Brown said.
The Hornish family has owned the 4-year old male pit bull-mix for several months. The family also owns a white female pit bull, named Tofu (see a July 9 Facebook post). Police said they are looking into the dog's background. "The detective assigned and our animal control officer are still working to gather additional information before drawing any conclusions," Brown said. "We're trying to find out about the pedigree of this animal. If it was a rescue, where did it come from?"
A politically correct animal lover and former state representative like Annie Hornish would only have a rescue pit bull, and a neutered one at that. Annie Hornish was a member of the state House of Representatives from 2009 to 2011. She is currently listed as the Connecticut senior state director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). A rescue pit bull belonging to a senior state director at the HSUS just fatally attacked a 95-year old woman -- let that sink in.
Fire Dispatch Logs
The Hartford Courant "breaking news" version will be continuously updating today. Hornish has now been quoted as blaming her mother's home health aid who struck the dog with a metal stool after the dog jumped on D'Aleo, who uses a walker. "It seems as if the dog got excited and it was overexuberant," Hornish said. "[The dog] jumped on a friend with a walker and she fell backward and we believe that's what killed her." As of Friday, an autopsy has not yet been performed.
"Hornish said the dog, Dexter, was reacting to being hit repeatedly with a metal stool by her mother's home health aide, who apparently thought the dog was greeting their visitor too enthusiastically when he jumped on D'Aleo, who uses a walker ... 'It seems as if the dog got excited and it was overexuberant,' Hornish said. '[The dog] jumped on a friend with a walker and she fell backward and we believe that's what killed her.'" - Hartford Courant, November 8, 2019
Police characterized D'Aleo's injuries as "bleeding from a dog bite" and bitten on her lower extremities, causing "substantial and severe injuries." Dispatch logs from Suffield Police, Fire and EMS show the call for a "dog bite" came in at 2:57 pm. At 3:08 pm, another call comes in. Dispatch asks, "Can you check with people on the scene and see if we have a Janet D'Aleo? We are receiving another call from a monitoring company. Something about a dog attack?"1
The only person who is characterizing D'Aleo's death as a "fall," and at that, "a very unfortunate accident," is the owner of the pit bull, former state Rep. Annie Hornish who continues to be the Connecticut senior state director of the HSUS. The 911 caller told police the woman had been bitten and was bleeding. Two separate monitoring companies for Suffield Police, Fire and EMS picked up reports of a "dog bite" and "dog attack." There was no mention of a falling injury.
By Friday evening, it was reported that the medical examiner's office determined the 95-year old's death was caused by the dog bite.
The History of Dexter
From November 2018 to June 2019, a woman named Jessica Kaczynski attempted to rehome Dexter on Facebook. There are exceptions to Dexter, such as, "he jumps through windows that have screens and today he broke though a glass window to get outside -- that was the last straw for my parents," she wrote on June 20. "Anxiety medicine has helped him in the past with this," she wrote. In comments, she connects with Hornish who offers her phone number to help.
There are several key aspects in the June 20, 2019 post. Kaczynski claims the CT Humane Society will euthanize "because he's a pit bull." But, Kaczynski may just be pulling heartstrings in order to find an instant adopter or foster. Hornish buys into it, calling CT Humane Society's actions "unacceptable." Further down, Kaczynski states, "We found a potential forever home for him. Just dropped him off there!" It is unclear who this owner is, but Hornish is the owner by July 9.
The November 2018 post was left at Pit Bull Rescue Central. "Looking for a home for Dexter, a 3-year old male pit bull, whose parents were evicted from their apartment and face homelessness … I found a temporary foster home for him but they can only keep him for a couple of days," she wrote. If one adds up "only known" homes, Dexter had six different owners by the age of 4 when he reaches Hornish. This excludes unknown fosters and "forever homes" that failed to pan out.2
Lastly, don't miss the "Birthday Party" video on Hornish's Facebook page. Hornish's pit bull, "Dexter," quite literally takes over the party in an unpleasant and "overexuberant" manner. At about 7:30 pm Friday, Hornish removed her Facebook page -- we have replaced with copies.
11/07/19: Pit Bull Kills Elderly Woman
Suffield, CT - An elderly woman is dead after being attacked by a male pit bull-mix Wednesday. Just before 3:00 pm, emergency responders were called to 584 Thrall Avenue after reports of a person bleeding from a canine attack. Arriving responders found 95-year old Janet D'Aleo of Enfield suffering life-threatening injuries from the attack. She was transported to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, where she later died of her severe dog bite injuries.
D'Aleo had been visiting the home on Thrall Avenue when the dog attacked her, according to police. The male pit bull-pointer mix was placed into quarantine pending an investigation by the Suffield Police Department and Suffield Animal Control. Since 2005, six people have been killed by dogs in Connecticut. 100% of these victims are female; 83% are females over the age of 50; and 67% are females over the age of 70. Pit bulls were responsible for half of these deaths.
Highest Year on Record
D'Aleo's death marks the 42nd dog bite fatality this year and it is only November 7. The highest annual number of fatalities since 2005 is 43 deaths. Over the 14-year period of 2005 through 2018, the months of May (49 deaths) and November (48 deaths) have the highest rate of dog bite fatalities followed by the months of August and December (each with 46 deaths). We anticipate 2019 to be the highest fatality year on record -- possibly over 50 fatal dog mauling victims.
21.) Birth home 2.) Evicted owners 3.) Temporary foster 4.) Kaczynski 5.) June 2019 "forever home" and 6.) Annie Hornish.
Law enforcement departments across the United States should release consistent "baseline" information to the media and the public after each fatal dog mauling, including these items.